This post is one of a series describing the design of a prospective RPG called the Wall. You can find more posts here.
Here we are with the second test scenario. This example is useful as you can see how the rules evolve as roadblocks are hit or outcomes don’t make sense. There are character sheets at the end of this that are built using the new rules.
As mentioned last time, an Episode is basically a single adventure, set to be run in one or two sessions. It can be part of a larger campaign, but should have a beginning and an end.
Episode: Food riots have begun in the Fifth Quarter, one of the middle class sections near the river. Order is threatened and the Company’s influence among the Elites is at stake.
Each Scene within an Episode has a goal. The first Scene sets the stage and puts things in motion. The GM might have other Scenes prepared, but these will also grow organically through PC actions. This Scene is one that is directed by the PCs. After learning in the last scene that the latest riot was started by a preacher saying the Elites are hording food, the PCs have a discussion and decide that they want to find out if this is true. Since Adriss (PC2) was the main proponent, he’s the one that is leading this scene.
Scene Goal: Find out if the Elites really are hording food
Adriss is going to speak to the Master of the Docks, the head bureaucrat responsible for the city’s emergency food stores. He has 2 in Sympathy, so that is going to be the “difficulty” (Sympathy is the difficulty because the Elite do not respect an Occupier who has sympathy for the Dispossessed) – he’ll need 2 Successes to Prevail. Adriss isn’t going to mess around – he’s basically going in with accusations. That’s the Fist and Open. He’s in uniform, so since he’s doing this Open, he’ll get his Authority die as well. His Elements include “1000 Mile Stare,” which tends to freak people out, so he’ll get the d6 for that. He’s using his Bitter Veteran Concept to intimidate the Master of the Docks, and so he can wager 1 Influence (he’s dealing with the Elite) to shift his Element d6 to a d8.
He rolls a 5 on his Fist d8, a 2 on his Open d4, an 8 on his Authority d8, and a 3 on his Element d8. He gets another d8 because his Authority d8 rolled a maximum (rolling the max on a die provides another die of the same kind), and with that d8 he rolls a 5.
Adriss got three Successes, more than he needed to Prevail, but not enough for any kind of bonus. Since he Prevailed, the 1 Influence he wagered remains with Influence. However, he used Fist, so Distance is increased.
How does this work? He was dealing with Elites, so why does Distance increase? It is an abstract of the cultural distance from and fear of the locals for the Occupiers. But then shouldn’t the score that provides the relationship with the Elites also suffer? It seems counterintuitive that the use of force – physical or interpersonal – would increase an Occupier’s sympathy for the Dispossessed.
This is a problem with the use of these relationship mechanics. The abstract is that Fist is the easiest way to succeed but that it always carries a cost. It makes sense that the cost would be a further gulf between the Occupiers and the occupied, but there’s no single stat for that. Maybe there should be.
Right now, the city has three of its own stats: Peace, Order, and Harmony. Let’s try making the difficulty ratings part of the city’s stats. Let’s call these Distance, Disdain, and Discord. These will measure the difficulty of gaining the cooperation of the Dispossessed, the Elite, and the Occupiers. PCs will have Sympathy, Influence, and Respect, which will help in dealing with the Dispossessed, Elite, and Occupiers.
At the beginning of the game, Distance is 5, Disdain is 3, and Discord is 1. When one uses Fist, the difficulty for the group interacted with increases by 1, so in this example, Disdain would have increased by 1. When Fist is used Open, the Peace or Harmony (whichever is higher) is lowered by 1 as well.
Let’s take these new rules and try them out with Beatris’ previous scene. In that case – assuming it was the first Episode and Scene, so these were new characters – the difficulty would have been 5. She got 2 Successes, which was still within 1/3 of the difficulty, so it would still have been a Negotiation. Negotiation would not allow the PCs to lower the city’s Distance, so it would still be at 5.
Adriss’ scene, on the other hand, would now have a difficulty of 3. He would still Prevail. While Disdain should lower by 1 because of the PC Prevailed in the scene, he also used Fist, which increases it by 1, so Disdain remains at 3.
That seems to work. We’ll move forward with these. For these new stats – Sympathy, Influence, and Respect – at character creation, the player will have a score of 3, 2, and 1 to assign to these. Beatris’ scene probably would have been a failure as she would likely not have been willing to lose 2 out of her 3 Sympathy. Unless there was a way these could be gained? Or could they recycle at the end of an episode? That might be the best. It’s simple and we can look at changing that later if the rest of the mechanics prove sound.
Okay, so let’s say the city’s Peace, Order, and Harmony are all 1 at introduction. The use of Fist and Open disturbs either the Peace or the Harmony. Let’s go with Harmony, since Adris didn’t actually physically do anything. That means Harmony is now at 0 and until it is increased, the PCs can’t wager Sympathy, meaning that interactions with the Dispossessed are going to prove difficult.